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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Pug ugly statue sparks protest and outrage

Indigenous people and allies protest new Blackstone statue and Columbus Day 

By Steve Ahlquist

Well-known and respected local Narragansett leaders Randy and Bella Noka were among the several speakers at the rally (Photo by Steve Ahlquist)

The statue of William Blackstone, recently placed at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Exchange Street in Pawtucket has sparked controversy. 

At a time when the United States is coming to grips with its past in terms of slavery and genocide, a new statue commemorating the first white settler in Rhode Island, (predating the arrival of founder Roger Williams by about a year) has been met with disapproval from Narragansett Tribe members and others who see the statue as glorifying colonization and gentrification. 

The statue was done by Peruvian born artist and Providence resident Peruko Ccopacatty and paid for by restauranteur, realtor and businessperson Louis Yip of Pawtucket.

The erection of the statue seems to have been deliberately planned in a low key fashion, even some members of the Pawtucket City Council seemed surprised when it was revealed to be mere weeks away from completion. 

There was seemingly no public input sought, and federal HUD funds were used to mount the statue in place and beautify the surrounding area, funds, say critics, that should have been used to help alleviate the housing crisis in Rhode Island.

Although paid for by Louis Yip, for the reported price of $40k, the cost of maintaining and protecting the statue will fall on Pawtucket taxpayers.

In response to the statue a protest was held by Narragansett Tribal Elders Bella Noka and Randy Noka - alongside Indigenous Rhode Islanders, Pawtucket residents and allies – at Veterans Memorial Park, across the street from the statue on Indigenous People’s Day

Indigenous People’s Day is still celebrated by many as Columbus Day, a national holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus, the man who arrived in the East Indies and began the practice of of both slavery and genocide in the Americas. 

In Providence, a statue of Columbus was removed after being vandalized several times. Two other statues commemorating Columbus are still standing Rhode Island.

To see all the video from the speakers at Monday’s event, CLICK HERE for Steve's original article in Uprise RI.